It's sometimes easy to overlook the fact that the majority of estate agents only receive payment for the weeks, if not months of hard work that they put in to selling a property, if, and only if, they secure a buyer who proceeds to an exchange of contracts.
Ask an estate agent how many sellers pull out before, or buyers who withdraw, with all that wasted work. Add in the office rent and overheads, staff salaries, and there is a lot riding on a successful and speedy exchange of contracts.
Sadly, the estate agent can face further uncertainty – the quality of the conveyancing lawyer.
The legal process of buying and selling property used to be the sole domain of solicitor firms, but that has long gone, and essentially, anyone can handle the legal work.
A conveyancing business can badge any employee and with ‘supervision’ they can be let loose handling the legal work for a consumer's next home move. And legal businesses know this, and they know the public rarely – if ever – ask WHO is my lawyer, 'tell me about them'.
This fact sends shivers down the spine of many an estate agent, as they know that their hard earned work in finding a buyer can be all too often in vain, if the ‘lawyer’ mishandles the legal steps afterwards.
Perhaps they advertise themselves as cheap – often a tell tale sign – or slow, perhaps more commonly they are simply ill-trained in property law, or maybe a lawyer juggling another area of the law and perhaps out in court most of the time.
Or perhaps simply they are not permitted to make any decisions without sign-off from a senior colleague who only passes through the office once a week. Either way, when a buyer or seller informs the estate agent that 'that legal business' has been chosen, hearts can sink.
Some estate agents may well dissuade a seller from accepting a buyer's offer, if certain inferior legal businesses are chosen.
Consequently, the choice of an expertly prompt conveyancer is crucial, and estate agents will whittle down the local ones to a very few, all of whom will be just that – an almost guarantee of a prompt exchange of contracts.
Skilled to be fast, but to cut through any legal complexity with ease, making sure the public achieve the desired exchange of contracts, the estate agent is paid, and the conveyancer is recommended to friends and family to bring them further business. A win win situation for all.
But choose a mediocre conveyancer, and you risk no exchange, the estate agent doesn’t get paid, and all the previous weeks and months have been a complete waste.
*Tim Higham is Partner & Head of Residential Property Group at Trethowans LLP